Data protection, cables 20,000 leugues under the sea.
A few years ago, one of the NATO generals raised concerns at the level of activity coming from the Russian submarine fleet. They were currently engaged in more patrols than at any time since the 1990’s. It wasn’t acts of sabotage, or warfare he was concerned about, but what they were up to. It was discovered that several submersible vessels where at the bottom of the trenches in the Atlantic literally drilling holes into the
information pipes that transfer data between the US and Europe, not to disrupt, but to listen in. This seemingly outlandish scenario shows just how vulnerable data can be whilst in transit over physical wires.
Data protection, down to the wire.
Data protection often focuses around the cyber threats. Viruses, ransomware, SQL injections and software intrusions all pose significant problems for our information security. Yet most of our traffic still transfers across the physical realm of routers, switches and particularly cables. Data is transferred through either copper wiring or fibre cable and is susceptible to hijacking or interruption whilst it is in that state. An issue with any of this infrastructure can be just as disruptive as any cyber-attack as any weakness can be exploited by a hacker in ascertaining their prize. The following is a few of the problems that can be faced and what can be done about it:
Breakage: Wear and tear of cables can prevent signal flow and electronic packets from reaching their intended destinations. This can be caused at the time of installation as jostling cable to “fit” within physically constrained areas can cause kinks and cracks to occur. If that does happen then it can be difficult to track down and repair amongst a myriad of wires.
This can mitigate by choosing higher quality cabling. For example, a shielded twisted pair has copper wiring innards wrapped around a protective jacket which makes it difficult to bend or break when moved. The other things to do is to store cables in distinct enclosures, such as cupboards or tunnelling under floorboards. This will leave them undisturbed without being kicked, trodden on or tampered with.
Degradation of signal through cabling.
: Whether through copper wire or fibre optic, a signal will degrade over space and time. Signal attenuation can occur when the cable is too long, when the signal is sent at a high frequency or it just takes too long.
This would best dealt with at the design stage in determining the type of signal sent, so that these types of occurrences are minimised. Checking cabling specifications and erring on the side of caution is a good start. Even still an increase in data traffic may exceed the original physical specs so other methods of “boosting” the signal through using intermediaries such as repeaters can be brought in to alleviate the problem. Replacing cable type may from copper to fibre optic would also dramatically increase speed and performance.
Leakages through cables?
Wires still let off radio signals that can be detected and deciphered by eager listeners with the right kit. Other electronic signals within the environment may still interfere with the signals itself. Proper shielding is the only way to limit this affect, either increasing the quality of the cable or shielding the container that houses the wires themselves.
Cable maintenance as part of your dta protection plan.
An adequate understating of the environment where the cables operates is highly desirable. This can determine extenuating circumstances that could affect the network. Having up to date wiring diagrams complete with colouring and label schemes allows for easy access to problem cables in case of repair or problem tracing through the series of switches, routers and servers that the system may be connected to. The wiring is the lifeblood of any network and its maintenance and review should be part of any IT security plan.